In 2013 the General Assembly (GA) of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) approved a resolution calling on the church to affirm the faith, baptism, and spiritual gifts of everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, and that neither are grounds for exclusion from fellowship or service within the church. You can Google “GA-1327” to find and read the resolution in full.
At the time I knew nothing about the structure of our general church or the resolution process. But, the controversy surrounding GA-1327 woke me up and initially it wasn’t a positive experience.
People I’d known for 20 years left our Sunday school class in part over GA-1327. A member literally handed me a copy of it the last time I saw him in our church building's rotunda.
As I read GA-1327 that morning I remember agreeing with what I read, but strongly disagreeing with the divisive and destructive process that produced it.
I then joined a First Christian Church (FCC) task force to learn more about the general church’s resolution process and to hopefully help put an end to future disruptions to not only our congregation, but other congregations around the country as well.
I was confronted with an alphabet soup of acronyms like GA, GM, OGMP, GLAD, DHM and DOM. Even though acronyms are meant to make communication more efficient, they can also be disorienting and make people feel like outsiders.
Unfortunately, acronyms can also dehumanize the people they represent. It's easier to dislike an acronym than it is a person, especially when you’ve convinced yourself those letters represent a group that created a wedge between your friends and family members.
With irony recognized on both sides, our FCC task force drafted a resolution to end these divisive resolutions and our efforts resulted in GA-1524 which was presented and adopted at the 2015 General Assembly in Columbus, Ohio, by a large group of faithful FCC members.
But, GA-1524 didn’t end the resolution process, because for it to have a hope of passing the final draft included language that compromised with other groups who do not want the resolution process to end.
To get the final resolution passed, we worked with people from Disciples Home Missions (DHM), the Division of Overseas Ministries (DOM), the Gay, Lesbian and Affirming Disciples (GLAD) and the Office of the General Minister and President (OGMP).
GA-1524 called for a denomination-wide Social Witness task force to discover a less divisive method by which to educate Disciples on social justice issues. I attended the first meeting of that task force as a representative of FCC in February of this year in Indianapolis, Indiana.
After three years I was able to put faces and names with those lifeless acronyms with which I had been so angry.
And, of course the people I met that weekend didn’t match the images I had conjured up in my mind. They were wonderful people of deep faith and love. They were Disciples. They were variations of you and me, with personal stories that would bring any compassionate person to tears.
At the end of the conference I rode the hotel shuttle back to the airport with the man who drafted GA-1327, the controversial resolution that rattled our congregation and made me aware of so many important issues. We had a great visit and we’ll be working on this new resolution together.
Our denomination’s identity statement says: “We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world. As part of the one body of Christ we welcome all to the Lord’s Table as God has welcomed us.”
By getting involved in this process, I’ve learned there is a natural tension between unity and justice. It’s hard to keep everyone together while making sure we do what we know is right. Finding our balance at the center of that tension requires us to understand the experiences and views of other people, while remembering they ultimately are no different than you or me.
Posted on Tue, March 15, 2016
by Micah James